Spro Fishing Shoot in Key West and the Dry Tortugas
A few weeks ago, I got booked by Spro Lures to shoot their new offshore slow pitch jigs. When they told me that we were going out off Key West and camping on the Dry Tortugas, I had no idea this was a bucket list trip for most people. We booked an AirBnB in Key West with a dock where we spent most of the time on day one catching small mangrove snapper and watching the US Air Force fly-overs. Oh, and the big lizards were fun to shoot as well.
For me, it was just another job. Little did I know what was about to happen.
Our first stop was behind a shrimp boat; and we were looking for blackfin tuna. Between fighting off the bonito, the pelicans and the sharks, hooking up was tough. We managed to put 2 tuna in the boat before heading off to some deeper water. For the rest of the day, we fished with manual reels doing the new technique, slow pitch jigging. Talking about a workout! Try dropping a 1-3oz lead jig in 300-500' of water all day and winding in 15 different species of fish. We caught African pompano, red grouper, goliath grouper, mangrove snapper; and a bunch of fish I have never seen before. Kozu, our SPRO boss, caught 2 goliath grouper back-to-back; and that was a workout in itself. You need to keep in mind that we never used any live or cut-bait. Another impressive thing was SPRO's new line of saltwater braid and fluorocarbon. This stuff is just indestructible! Kozu caught the biggest goliath of the day; and it had him pinned down under a reef for over 10 minutes. The destruction this line took and never broke was insane. African
Another secret weapon that SPRO makes is the Spro 125G Cannonball Tai Rubber Jig. This thing catches everything, especially those fish you want to bring home for the family to chow down on for dinner.
Even though I was the photographer, occasionally there were breaks where the Spro team just had enough. That's when I got an opportunity to take a break from photography and catch some fish. The incredible captain we had also had a few minutes to fish; and after just one drop in 350' of water, he hooked up with a massive pelagic animal. Goliath grouper have a very particular way they pull; so when you hook one, usually you know within just a few seconds that it most likely is a goliath. Since golaiths are on the endangered species list, they are a huge waist of time to reel in; and nobody wants to utilize their energy to bring in a fish that you can't bring back to the dock. Having said that, the captain looked over at me and said, " hey photography-man, you want this one"; and of course I said, 'heck yeah!" Nobody knew what was about to happen that surprised us all. As I took the rod in my hand, all I knew was that this fish was strong, angry, and wanted to show me that he was superior. After about a 30 minute fight, I heard these words, " we have color and it's red." The captain said holy crap it's a record red snapper! I was like is it a big one? It would be like taking someone bass fishing on Lake Lanier in Georgia; and on their first fishing trip they catch a 10 pound largemouth or a 7 pound spotted bass, and turning to you and asking, is that is a big one. When the words came out of the captain's mouth, " it's a cubera," the folks on-board went nuts; and I had no idea what was going on with this catch. I had never even heard of a cubera. As we put it in the boat, all I saw was teeth, big teeth! I mean this thing would take your hand off in a heart-beat! The cubera weighed 68 pounds and is the largest ever caught on the guides boat in 25 years. These fish usually only eat at night; and it was early afternoon when he bit. The cubera is the largest of all of the snapper species. They are known to live up to 50 years; and this fish was easily 50 years old. For me, the fresh water guy, this was a lifetime catch; and I will be making a replica. We all took quick photos and released it.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
The first European to see the Dry Tortugas was Juan Ponce de León, who visited on June 21, 1513. Ponce de León caught 160 sea turtles there and subsequently referred to the islands as the "Tortugas" (turtles). They are called Dry owing to the absence of surface fresh water on the island. The name is the second oldest surviving European place-name in the US.
The Dry Tortugas was also a prison for Union deserters during the Civil war.
As we pulled up to the dock, the first thing I see is a 300 pound goliath grouper, a very large nurse shark and a ton of bait swimming around the dock. This place is jurassic!
After a very long day of fishing, we get ready to camp; and unfortunately none of us could figure out the tent. We decided to sleep on the dock; and that would have been a great idea if someone had not forgotten their CPAP machine. Being that far from civilization and light pollution, it was amazing to see a comet shower and even what some would call a UFO.
Just before the sun rose on day two, all of our alarms went off alerting us that it is time to go one more time. We are about to catch 12 new different species of fish on our last day. We knew we were headed into a huge day of fishing; but what we didn't expect was all the thieves of the ocean. After a beautiful sunrise, we started catching fish once again. Dolphins ( porpoises ) and sharks are the most opportunistic fish and mammals in the water. They are smart! We ran into countless times of getting good eating fish in the boat; and the thieves ate them before we even got the option of boating them. They are so intelligent in that they never grab the head, which is where the hook is located; so they never get hooked.
After having our hearts broke over some good eating fish and dealing with the thievery, we manage to boat a few more species. We boated few queen snapper at the end which made our SPRO and Aftco rep very happy. With a four and a half ride back, we loaded up and head back to the ramp in Key West.
This trip with SPRO Fishing Lures will never be forgotten!
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